The moment I saw Kevin Ware’s tibia I knew it was only a matter of of time before this debate started up, and it turns out “a matter of time” was just a couple of days because people here, here, here and here are all starting to make the case that when it comes down to it college athletes are really uncompensated workers being exploited by merciless factory owner that is the NCAA. And I admit they have a point.
I’ve seen Coach Carter and Through the Fire, and as stereotypical as it might sound, for a lot of kids college sports are a chance to escape from a lifetime of low-income housing and minimum wage jobs (or, if you’re Jesus Shuttlesworth, to get your dad’s prison sentence reduced). So the argument could be made that even though playing a sport is technically a choice, for some kids it really isn’t. And that’s a valid point.
But anecdotes and emotions aren’t a good enough reason to justify a total overhaul of college athletics. Like it or not becoming a college athlete is a conscious decision. You go into it knowing that it could be your ticket to the pros, but with the trade off being that there is a very real possibility that one play could fuck up the rest of your life. You go into it knowing you have at least some form of insurance, but also with the knowledge that there’s a chance that it’s not going to cover every freak occurrence. You also go into it with financial security that not a lot of other college students have. You might not be getting paid an actual salary, but what you are getting is free housing, food, pussy and assorted swag for four years (and even a degree if you make the effort to go to class).
Do I feel bad for Kevin Ware? Absolutely. But despite his bad break Louisville is going to cover his medical bills and there’s a good chance he’ll be back on the court sometime next year. Using him as a scapegoat for student pay doesn’t make any sense, and even though I fully acknowledge I’m in no position to be on a high horse to anyone, anyone who does is a kind of an asshole for using a basically irrelevant situation to try and push their own agenda.